The Malik Report
by George Malik on 03/17/11 at 01:10 PM ET
Updated 7x at 2:50 with Babcock audio, Osgood news, and Hudler’s out as he’s ill: The Detroit Red Wings will have a now-familiar face in the lineup tonight when they face off against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 PM, Fox Sports Detroit/FS Ohio/WXYT) in Joey MacDonald:
The crazy life of a back-up goalie. Joey MacDonald was sent down to Grand Rapids earlier in the week when it appeared Chris Osgood was ready to play. But Osgood still isn’t quite ready, as it turns out. So here was MacDonald being recalled yesterday afternoon, and now it looks like he’ll get the start tonight here in Columbus.
The Free Press’s Helene St. James confirms while discussing the second undercurrent going into tonight’s tilt with the first of two very important Wings people in Jimmy Howard—ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun talked to Ken Holland as well, so please continue reading—the fact that the Wings appear to have steadied themselves after a 4-game losing streak and what appeared to be a bit of top playoff seed malaise:
“It’s no surprise,” Jimmy Howard said. “We’re playing better as a team. As a whole, we’re playing 60 minutes and it’s paying off. We’ve gotten healthy and we’ve got guys back in their rhythm now. Now we just have to continue to pay attention to details and just continue working and striving to get better so we’re peaking for the playoffs.”
The Wings did many things well against the Capitals, from coming out with a strong start to dominating on faceoffs (especially Kris Draper, who was 6-0, and Henrik Zetterberg, who was 7-4). They also played the right way after getting a 3-2 lead, like when Todd Bertuzzi chipped the puck into Washington’s zone, and then went in and got to it first, creating a scoring opportunity for Danny Cleary.
Howard is back in for Saturday’s game at Nashville. The Wings had to fall back on MacDonald after Chris Osgood deemed himself too sore to play, something he said he’s hoping will be taken care off over the next few days. He had surgery Jan. 11 for a sports hernia and had been practicing for more than a week, and looked good enough for the Wings to activate him off injured reserve on Monday.
Red Wings GM Ken Holland talked to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun about his take as to why the Wings have finally been able to string some wins together…
“I go back to training camp, and Mike [Babcock] and I talked to the players about the playoff race and our division and how tough it is,” Holland told ESPN.com. “We talked about how important it was to get out of the gates. I thought we played as good as anybody until December, when we got it with injuries.
“We got healthy around the All-Star break but we didn’t play the kind of hockey you need to be consistently successful. We gave up too many goals; we were too loose with too many turnovers. I know that the last couple of weeks, Mike has really been hammering on our team about turnovers and attention to detail. And I would say the last little while, like you saw last night, we’re playing better.
“I think we’ve been much more consistent of late. Last night was a good step in the right direction. Tonight’s another test [at Columbus].”
Wings fans have been wringing their hands in the second half, unsure exactly what they have on their hands. Of course, they’re spoiled by two decades of brilliance.
“We have the same core team that won the Cup in ‘08 and took us to the finals in ‘09,” Holland said. “And last year we had a great run down the stretch. They’ve done it before. I guess you can ask, ‘Are we too old?’ That’s been a decade-old question in Detroit. ... There have been some moments of inconsistency this season, no question. In saying all that, we’re second in the West.”
And DetroitRedWings.com’s Bill Roose delivers some important real life news:
Congratulations to Ruslan Salei and his wife, Bethann, who on Wednesday, gave birth to the couple’s third child.
Ava Ruslanovna Salei entered the world late Wednesday evening in California. She measured in at 7.98 pounds and 18.5 inches long. Ava is the couple’s third daughter, joining older sisters Alexis, 5, and Aleksandro, 3.
The veteran defenseman is the second Red Wing to welcome a new child into the world in recent weeks. Forward Johan Franzen, and his wife, Cecilia, became first-time parents on Feb. 28 with the birth of their son, Eddie Bo Johan Franzen.
Goalie Chris Osgood and his wife, Jenna, are also expected their third child this month, joining daughters Mackenzie and Sydney.
Update: The Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline provides us with roster updates from the Blue Jackets’ side—as well as a Wings update:
D Fedor Tyutin took part in an optional skate this morning, along with 11 other skaters and two goaltenders. After missing Wednesday’s practice, Tyutin is expected to dress tonight vs. the Wings.
D Anton Stralman says he’ll definitely be back before the end of the season. Stralman has been out since Feb. 27, when he injured a knee after colliding with Nashville’s Martin Erat at the blue line. No timetable for the return, but definitely before April 9.
Looks like G Steve Mason will get the start for the Blue Jackets, while Joey MacDonald gets the start for Detroit. It will be MacDonald’s eighth start of the season, his first start since March 3 in San Jose. One of those previous starts came against Columbus, a 6-5 win by Detroit in Detroit on Jan. 15.
Red Wings F Jiri Hudler is out with an illness, and D Ruslan Salei is won’t play because his wife is due to give birth. Knees just got safer tonight.
Detroit coach Mike Babcock, with spectacular hair, said F Patrick Eaves and Drew Miller will both play tonight. Babcock said he’s deliberating as to which forward should come out of the lineup.
Portzline also noted that the Blue Jackets hope to cement a solid record against the Wings:
A win would give the Blue Jackets a 3-2-1 record vs. the Red Wings this season. This wouldn’t be the first time the Jackets have beaten Detroit three times in one season. They did it during the 2006-07, 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons. But it would mark the first time Columbus has had a winning record against the Wings in a season.
“We’ve had some success against Detroit,” Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. “We’ve matched up well. We have to bring our ‘A’ game for that to continue. We’ve gapped up on them. We’ve taken away the extra time and the lanes they use to make plays.”
Update #2: The Columbus Dispatch’s Ron Carter also offered a take on the theory that the Blue Jackets can still make the playoff cut:
Talk about a missed opportunity. Over the past 10 games, the Jackets have gone 2-4-4. Not only did they have a chance to win every game, the teams they are chasing in the Western Conference aren’t sprinting away from the pack.
Consider these recent records: Calgary, 5-4-1; Nashville, 4-4-2; Anaheim, 6-3—1; Minnesota, 3-6-1.
Replace the past 10 games with a moderate hot streak of 6-4, and the Jackets would have 80 points and would be tied with Nashville for 10th and would be one point behind Calgary and Anaheim for the last playoff spot, with three games in hand on the Flames and one game each on the Ducks and Preds.
As it stands, the Jackets are seven points back, with 74 points and 13 games to play. Even now, a 9-4 run the rest of the way would put them at 92 points, a point total that would have been good enough to get in the playoffs three of the past five years. The final playoff spot took this many points over the past five years: 95, 91, 91, 92 and 95.
A 9-4 run, while difficult, would be about the same .700 clip the Jackets started the season with. Of course, the bigger problem is that the Jackets are chasing four teams instead of one or two. Chances are, at least one of the four will get hot enough to push the magic number into the mid-90s.
Even winning a couple of shootouts in recent weeks would have been huge. Two more points would put a 9-4 run into the mid-90s, a point total that was close to a lock in recent seasons.
• MLive’s Ansar Khan happened to talk to Patrick Eaves on Wednesday night about his return to the lineup...
“It’ll be good to be back,’’ Eaves said. “Obviously, I want to be back the next game, but you never know with groins and skating muscles. You have to be careful, after this amount of of games, you don’t want to come back too soon and then be out longer.’’
With Babcock discussing the Wings’ glut of healthy forwards…
“I like our mix there,’’ Babcock said. “Abby (Justin Abdelkader) and Helmer (Darren Helm) have become significant players on our team and Millsie (Drew Miller) and Drapes (Kris Draper) and Patty Eaves have been excellent. They’ve just been injured or out of the lineup. Millsie’s found himself scratched here (the past two games), but he’s been fantastic. They bring us good energy and expect it on a nightly basis.’’
And Khan asked the Wings to weigh in on Rafalski’s 3-assist performance in his return from yet another spate of back spasms:
“Obviously, Rafi is a real good player and if he’s healthy, he’s a lot better player,’’ coach Mike Babcock said. “He hasn’t been healthy most of the year. We’d like to get him back and playing the way he can. We’re a faster team when he’s moving the puck.’’
Rafalski missed 10 games near the start of the season with a knee injury. He has 40 points (including 37 assists) in 51 games.
“He’s a veteran guy, him coming back makes not only our lineup better but our power play better with him back there shooting the puck,’’ goaltender Jimmy Howard said. “It’s nice to have him back there because he makes good first passes out of the zone.’’
“Two nice passes on the first two goals,’’ Zetterberg said. “He’s very good back there with the puck and always makes the right play.’’
• The Washington Post’s Lindsay Applebaum offered a quip from Howard, regarding one Alex Ovechkin, which she felt merited quote of the night status:
“I saw it leave his stick and then all I heard was ‘poof’ when it hit the padding at the back of the net. He can rifle it. I’d have to say he’s my new pick for the hardest shot in the league.” — Red Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard, on Alex Ovechkin’s game-tying goal in the second period.
• In the charitable/alumni department, per the Brighton Patch’s Anne Seebaldt...
RED WINGS HOCKEY NIGHT IN BRIGHTON
Where/when: Kensington Valley Ice House/4 p.m. Saturday, March 19.
Why go: Hosted by The Well Church, this game between Red Wings Alumni and The Well All-Stars benefits Promise Village Home for Children and Shop with a Cop of Livingston County. Ticketholders can eat at Buffalo Wild Wings in Brighton anytime on March 23 and 20 percent of purchases also will benefit the cause.
Pricing: $10 general admission or $25 for VIP admission, including dinner with Red Wing alumni; purchase at www.thewellmi.com or call Scott DesAutel at 248-515-3864.
• Two late-breaking sets of power rankings popped up late yesterday, with SI’s Brian Cazenueve ranking the Wings 4th-best out of 30 teams on his list and Fox Sports’ Robert Picarello ranking the Wings’ as the league’s 3rd-best team at present;
• And the Grand Rapids Press posted a video interview with Griffins captain Jamie Tardif. The Griffins won on Wednesday and play on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so they’re not exactly delighted with the Wings for calling up Joey MacDonald, especially as the Griffins can’t play Thomas McCollum after leaving him off their “Clear Day” roster. Jordan Pearce and ECHL’er Riley Gill will tend the net for Grand Rapids this weekend.
Update #3: MLive’s Ansar Khan confirms the Wings’ lineup tweaks:
MacDonald, recalled from the Grand Rapids Griffins on Wednesday, two days after he had been sent down, is filling in for Chris Osgood, who was supposed to start tonight but still is bothered by a sore groin.
MacDonald is 1-0-1 vs. Columbus this season, losing 3-2 in a shootout here on Jan. 14 and winning 6-5 in overtime the next night in Detroit.
Patrick Eaves returns to the lineup after missing nine games with a groin injury. Drew Miller also is back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch the past two games.
Coach Mike Babcock said Jiri Hudler is sick and didn’t make the trip. Babcock said he hadn’t decided on the other forward to scratch.
• And the Erie Times-News’s Kris Dube spoke to Wings prospect Trevor Parkes about his superb season in the QMJHL:
Trevor Parkes says confidence has been the key to his success in the hockey world. The 20-year-old Fort Erie native is in his second year with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL)‘s Montreal Juniors, where he leads his team in scoring, with 31 goals, 28 assists and 59 points in total. Last summer, he was disappointed not to hear his name called during the National Hockey League (NHL)‘s entry draft, but shortly after received invitations from both the Detroit Red Wings and the Dallas Stars to attend their off-season camps. The 6’2 left-winger decided to take his chances with the Red Wings… and the rest is history, as he later signed an entry level contract with the “original six” hockey club.
“Signing a contract with Detroit definitely gave me a big confidence boost,” said Parkes in a phone interview with the Times on Wednesday.
Although he expected he might have been picked up by one of the NHL’s 30 clubs during the 2010 draft, it doesn’t bother him. The fact that two teams recognized his talent and asked him to skate at their camps, is enough to make him realize he is doing things the way he should.
“I’m just happy to be in the place I am now,” he said.
Parkes, as a 20-year-old, is eligible for one more year in the QMJHL before he turns 21. Next year, he could possibly be called up to the Red Wings’ American Hockey League (AHL) team, the Grand Rapids Griffins, their farm club where players develop before playing in the NHL. He plans to work on strength and conditioning over the summer, when he will again be visiting Detroit’s camp, getting one stride of the skates closer to wearing a game jersey with the Red Wings.
“The game will be a lot different and that’s what I’m looking forward to.”
Update #4: Versus’ Bill Meltzer weighed in on Henrik Zetterberg’s slump-busting performance against Washington:
From my point of view, Henrik Zetterberg has long been the epitome of the more positive stereotypes often associated with Swedish-born and trained players: highly skilled with the puck, unselfish almost to a fault, team-oriented and defensively sound. In his own quiet way, Zetterberg has always been a bit of a perfectionist about his game, which has helped make him one of the NHL’s most consistent year-in and year-out performers.
While Zetterberg is human and no player is immune to slumps, his downturns rarely last for more than a couple games. Thus, it was a bit surprising when he entered Wednesday night’s game against the red-hot Washington Capitals have gone six games without a point and nine matches without a goal. Prior to his recent offensive struggles, Zetterberg had only had been held entirely off the scoreboard in back-to-back games four times this year, with none of his mini-slumps lasting more than three games.
Given Zetterberg’s history of being a clutch player, it was no surprise that he would bust loose against Washington. He scored two goals, including the game-winner in a 3-2 Detroit decision (see below), equaled his season-high with seven shots on goal. He was also credited with a pair of takeaways (seemed like he at least two more than that) and took 11 faceoffs, winning seven of them. In short, he played a nearly perfect game against one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
Now that Zetterberg’s pointless streak is history, I fully expect him to resume his usual pattern of offensive consistency. Meanwhile, stepping up to halt the Caps’ winning streak at nine games was a statement of sorts by the Central Division-leading Red Wings. With the club virtually locked in to the second seed in the West, there hasn’t been much to push the team of late. Wednesday night’s game was a tough test, and the Wings responded. Although Detroit is a so-so 5-3-2 over its last 10 games, the club has now won three in a row.
Update: Ansar Khan also spoke to Chris Osgood about his setback in returning from sports hernia surgery:
“I feel fine. It’s the same as before, break through scar tissue, that’s all it is,’’ Osgood said Thursday, after getting treatment at Nationwide Arena following the team’s optional morning skate. “When you break through (scar tissue) it feels like it’s hurt again. Hopefully it’s the last time it happens. Usually when I take a day off or two it feels better.’‘
Osgood, who had surgery for a sports hernia on Jan. 11 and has been bothered by groin issues much of the season, said he’s not concerned. He expects to be back on the ice Friday, working with goaltending coach Jim Bedard during the team’s off-day.
“Got to make sure I’m 100 percent before I go in, especially this time of the year,’’ Osgood said. “I’m looking to get back in after the weekend, for sure.’‘
Update: Wings coach Mike Babcock gave an interview to The Fan 590’s Doug MacLean and Darren Millard that’s probably worth its own entry. Babcock talked about the refresher that the Capitals provided, Brian Rafalski’s status, whether Jimmy Howard’s struggles earlier this season had anything to do with his contract negotiations, and he repeatedly addressed the head-shot issue. It’s a short interview but it’s jam-packed:
The Wings’ website posted a clip of Detroit’s players taking part in the team’s annual charity poker tournament at the Motor City Casino, too:
Updated again: Osgood and MacDonald both spoke to the Detroit News’s Ted Kulfan about their respective statuses:
“Break-through scar tissue, that’s all it is,” said Osgood, who recalls a similar situation about a month after the surgery. “It just happens and you work through it. When I take a day off, or two, it feels a lot better.”
Ogsood expects to go back on the ice with goaltending coach Jim Bedard Friday and return to the lineup after the weekend. Still, Osgood was disappointed to miss his scheduled start against the Blue Jackets.
“You work hard and do everything you’re supposed to do, which is what we’ve done,” said Osgood, who’d like to play at least two games before the playoffs begin. “It’s hard to predict how it’s going to feel. It’s disappointing not to play. But at the same time I want to make sure I’m 100 percent when I go in, especially this time of year. I don’t want to go in and not be ready.”
This was a whirlwind week for MacDonald, who was told by Grand Rapids coach Curt Fraser he was going back to the Wings after the Griffins’ morning skate Wednesday.
“It was a lot sooner than I expected but it’s great to be back,” MacDonald said. “This is where I want to be. I’m excited to be back.”
Updated yet again: Per Blue Jackets announcer Jeff Rimer, Columbus coach Scott Arniel should be re-named captain obvious:
The Blue Jackets are 2-2-1 against the Red Wings this season and with a win in regulation the Jackets will win the season series over Detroit for the first time in franchise history. When asked this morning about the Jackets success against the Wings, CBJ coach Scott Arniel said, “they bring out the best in his squad. They are a division opponent and there’s the Michigan-Ohio State rivalry that has had an effect on the team.”
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The Malik Report is a destination for all things Red Wings-related. I offer biased, perhaps unprofessional-at-times and verbose coverage of my favorite team, their prospects and developmental affiliates. I've joined the Kukla's Korner family with five years of blogging under my belt, and I hope you'll find almost everything you need to follow your Red Wings at a place where all opinions are created equal and we're all friends, talking about hockey and the team we love to follow.